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Our View: CMSD must get it right this time




Monday evening, the Columbus Municipal School board will listen to presentations from firms to conduct a search for the district's fourth superintendent since 2011. 


There is a revolving door at the superintendent's office. The damage done is clear, as today's package of stories on the district's decline clearly shows. 


Over the past 15 years, student population has fallen by 23 percent and that rate has escalated over the past four years. Since the end of 2014, 690 students have left the district. There has been a mass exodus of teachers, too, as much as a 30-percent turnover rate in recent years. The average turnover rate is 10 to 15 percent. 


Meanwhile, the district has held a "D" rating or its equivalent in each of the last nine years. Over that time, progress has come in fits and starts, but ultimately the city's schools have been mired in a pattern of decline that has eroded community support and damaged morale within the district. 


Today's edition of The Dispatch tells the grim story. The reporting is not intended to heap abuse on the district. Rather, the examination should serve as a warning and a call to action. The CMSD board's role at this stage is of critical importance: This time, the board has to get it right in selecting a new leader of the district. 


It should be abundantly clear, especially with the last two searches, that the choices have been disasters. 


Both Dr. Martha Liddell (2012) and Dr. Philip Hickman (2014), were chosen not on their qualifications or their visions for the district, but for reasons that had nothing to do with their ability to lead and guide the district. It was clear in both of those searches that the best qualified candidate did not emerge with the job.  


Our schoolchildren have paid an awful price for those mistakes. 


The board does not have the luxury of choosing based on those kinds of preferences this time. There should be no consideration given on the basis of race, gender or any other factor that does not have a direct bearing on the candidate's ability to tackle the difficult task ahead. 


It should be obvious to all, based on The Dispatch reporting, that the next superintendent should be an advocate for and champion of the district's teachers, who have been marginalized and ignored in recent years. 


The candidate who can best articulate a vision to empower the teachers in the classroom and has a demonstrated history of achieving that is the candidate who should emerge as the next superintendent. 


Anything less is a failure, a failure that may carry the district beyond the point of no return.



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